New Delhi: After recent meetings of PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rahman with PML (Q) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, popularly known as Chaudhry brothers on February 7-12 respectively, PML-N President and former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif met Chaudhry brothers at Zahoor Elahi House on February 13. This engagement is considered as crucial and stands out among the other interactions as its ramifications could be serious.
The meeting which lasted for an hour and 20 minutes with three rounds of talks focused on the no confidence motion planned to be introduced by the opposition. The Chaudhries described the coming days as highly crucial and said that they will plan their course of action as per the evolving situation. Interestingly, an element of secrecy dominated the meeting and the messaging being done for public consumption was that Shehbaz had visited the Chaudhries to enquire about the health of Chaudhry Shujaat. Earlier, Zardari and Maulana had also visited the Chaudhries ostensibly on the same pretext.
However, the meeting between the Chaudhries and the Sharifs was politically very critical, especially since such an engagement between the two sides was taking place after almost 23 years, though both the families have visited each other during bereavements. Tension between Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Shehbaz had begun in 1997 when the latter was made Chief Minister of Punjab instead of Pervaiz Elahi who was confident of making it to the post then. In the prevailing circumstances, with the Chaudhry bothers getting an upper hand in the ensuing political protractions, they would try to extract maximum mileage from the evolving situation and are likely to demand a significant share in any future set up. While the post of Chief Minister Punjab is crucial for the Chaudhries, the PML-N is not prepared to make way for Pervaiz Elahi to the post. It is possible that in the prevailing situation, the Chaudhries may bargain that their power centres and vote banks of Gujrat, Mandi Bahaouddin and Bahawalpur remain intact without any interference by the PML-N.
The opposition’s meetings with allies of the Imran Khan government are also indicative of the establishment’s neutrality or rather its backing to such moves. It is thus left to be seen whether the opposition’s proposed no confidence move emerges successful or not. The next few days would be crucial in that sense as there are indications that more than 30 PTI MNAs including 12-15 from Jahangir Tareen group could make some announcement in connection with the no confidence motion in the next few days. It is believed that with the help of PTI JKT group and other dissidents, who total around 30-35, any no confidence move is likely to be successful.
Meanwhile, indications are that Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa will get another extension as per his desire. The strong rhetoric being built by a select section of the media about the growing threat to national security from different quarters could be part of the grand exercise to ensure continuity of the present military dispensation with Gen Bajwa retaining his position. A number of analysts have opined that given the uncertainty prevailing in the political sphere and the serious security challenges the country faces from radical militant groups besides strong opposition to the security forces in Balochistan, it goes against all norms to implement changes in the military leadership.
Amidst the charged political situation, Islamic radicals and fanatics are going about their activities unhindered including upholding Talibani or Labbaiki (TLP) ideology of ‘gustakh-e-Rasool ka sar tan se juda’ (behead the blasphemer). These elements are playing the role of complainants, judges and executioners and killing innocent people on the pretext of blasphemy. On the night of February 13, an individual identified as Mushtaq, was stoned to death by a mob for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran in Tulamba village of Khanewal district. A mob of around hundred men hanged Mushtaq on a tree and pelted bricks at him until he bled to death. While the police arrived on the spot well before the stoning and arrested Mushtaq, but the mob in a highly charged mood pulled him away from the SHO’s custody and set him on fire.
There was widespread condemnation of the incident among the civilized sections of the society and the government came in for severe criticism for having flawed in dealing with the situation. Questions have been raised by the public as to what had happened to the TLP activists who had killed at least eight policemen during the October 2021 TLP protest. Besides, on December 3, 2021 a violent mob, including TLP fanatics, killed Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan factory manager on charges of blasphemy. The crowd while chanting slogans linked to the extremist Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) lynched Priyantha to death and later, burnt his body in the presence of the police. However, the fate of the murderers is not yet known.
On the media front, people like Orya Maqbool Jan and Ansar Abbasi are promoting Taliban type of radicalisation of Pakistani society. A prominent vlogger Aniq Naji said on February 13 that when the Hijab row occurred in Karnataka, the Indian media gave the issue wide coverage expressing solidarity with Muskan. He questioned as to why was no one popularising the incident of lynching of Mushtaq as they had done in the case of the hijab incident in India. Another vlogger, Aaliya Shah in her vlog said (February 13) that it is an irony that a couple of days back, Pakistanis had declared the Karnataka girl Muskan as a hero of Muslim Ummah for chanting ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ slogans, but there was absolute quiet when a mob while chanting the same slogan of ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ had mercilessly lynched a person at Tulamba, Mian Channu (Khanewal) on charges of desecration of Quran and blasphemy.